On his first post-conversion visit to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul sought to “join the disciples” (Acts 9:26). To “join” in this passage implies an intimate association. Paul’s desire to be intimately cemented to the brethren in Jerusalem serves as an important principle for us regarding the local congregation. God never intended for Christians to exist all by themselves on an island. Rather His design is for Christians to come together as “not one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:14) in local, autonomous congregations to strengthen one another and work together in the kingdom of God locally. This involves three things.
First, there is desire. In the early 2000s a movement away from “organized religion” took off and people began referring to themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” The New Testament does not condone that mentality. Rather, scripture reveals repeatedly that the first century church had a desire to be together (Acts 2:42; 44; 46; 4:23-24; 31-31; etc.). Each of us must have the same desire to be intimately connected with the body of Christ in our locale.
Second, there is an obligation. Every Christian has an obligation to the local congregation to be interested and invested in its work (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12). This begins by placing oneself under the oversight of an eldership (Phil. 1:1; Heb. 13:7,17) then worshiping (Acts 20:7), serving (2 Cor. 8:1-11) and working together (Acts 5-6) with the Saints.
Third, there are benefits. When we invest ourselves in a congregation, we are able to grow spiritually together, encourage one another, and glorify God together (Eph. 3:21; 4:19-22; 2 Pet. 2:1ff ). It allows needs to be met (Acts 4), fellowship to be extended, and a host of other blessings.
Christians cannot be content with sneaking in the back door of the church building just before worship begins and leaving during the closing song. To glorify God and to be the Christian God would have us to be demands my personal investment in the local congregation.